Curious to see if Have A Nice Life had released something new this year (I couldn’t remember for the life of me when they released their last album), I found the bandcamp of their label The Flenser. After listening to all of their 40 releases – from Palace of Worms The Forgotten (August 2011) to Mamaleek’s Via Dolorosa (May 2015) – and having also recognized a few bands in the mix, I decided to present you with ten bands from this San Francisco-based Dark Music Label. Be warned, ye who enter here: this is going to be some experimental, black, messed up shit. Since there is no clear roster (or I’ve been too lazy to find one), I’m going to go with bands that have released something on The Flenser, even if they are elsewhere today. If you’re asking why only ten bands, it’s because I think more than that would exhaust your attention span, and also to encourage you to go look for the others if you like what you’ve heard. Go support them on their store, or maybe read this old interview (2011) that we did. Also, the order of the bands is completely random.
HAVE A NICE LIFE
Let’s start with the band who got me into the making of this list: Connecticut’s duo Have a Nice Life. I hear post-punk, I hear drone, ambient, noise, shoegaze – I hear all of it, but I say whatever. Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga delivered in two albums and one EP some of the most interesting and aesthetically pleasing music out there. Some songs will crush your soul in despair, some will take you far away to distant lands, and the overall experience will leave you thinking, what are other bands doing with their time? Their first album, Deathconsciousness, is a masterpiece, exploring a mergence between industrial sounds and a noise/shoegaze universe; while The Unnatural World, their 2014 release, went a little more ambient without omitting the experimental side. Although the voice could fit in some indie/noise bands, I still find them to be extremely dark and beastly. Experiment with this my friends, you deserve it.
Now this is a band that had a few records under their belt before entering The Flenser, but since their last release, Revisionist, is one of the highlights of 2015, I say we concentrate on that. Don’t get me wrong – Known Flood was amazing and I recommend it to you, but Revisionist is an improved version of what Sannhet can do, in my opinion. Completely instrumental, this Brooklyn band makes you forget that they don’t have a singer; their highly sensitive music makes you fall so deep into their sonic arms you’ll wish it never ends. Although I could see some people having trouble getting into it, I personally think that it would be a shame not to, considering the emotional impact and the purity of their last record.
Self classified as “green metal,” San Francisco’s Botanist is a unique band, revolving around nature as you can see by the lexical field in their releases’ names: Mandragora, Flora, Bloom, Garden, Tree, Rose…Some might have a little struggle with the vocal parts at times, but if you manage to put it aside or to get accustomed to it (on their previous albums specifically) you’ll have a great time. I can’t really define what they do, though – I can’t find a prevailing musical genre, it’s extreme and experimental, let’s just leave it a that.
Fairly anonymous, but supposedly composed of two brothers, Mamaleek (name of a militia composed of freed slaves) is the latest release on The Flenser this year. They have a rich background with a lot of full-length (only the last two are on The Flenser, though) creating a dense and fascinating musical identity, revolving around black metal and Arabic history. I often use the word “travel” when I talk about albums that touched me emotionally, but with bands importing oriental aspects in a rather occidental musical genre, you might actually have a literal “voyage.” That being said, their latest release Via Dolorosa has more of a jazz feeling, which may sound weird, but is in fact truly amazingly well put.
WRECK AND REFERENCE
Perhaps (probably) the most experimental band on the list next to Botanist, Wreck and Reference makes music that I adore one day and don’t understand at all the next, and I’m talking about two listenings of the same track. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it at times, but this Los Angeles duo really bring it home for me, and that’s what counts. So, do with that information what you want…
From Canada, Skagos (whose name is to be recognized by A Song of Ice and Fire fans) is a duo that performs long, atmospheric black metal songs. They are said to be defenders of native people rights and cultural traditions, so if you get a very peaceful, “nature calls” feeling during the listening of Anarchic, it’s probably on purpose. Their songs cleverly mix black metal vocals with more traditional ones, while alternating straight ambient and vigorous parts, leaving you sometimes amongst the cold forests in the mountains, and other times down in the coal mines. I even got a sacred, holy church-like vibration through my skin during some intense parts. Really, Skagos is a band you need to experience.
So this band is not in their roster anymore, but I still wanted to give them a shout-out for the album they released on The Flenser, and also because their 2011 album was a big part of the interview I’ve put in the introduction. So Seidr, or Seiðr (from Norse mythology), is also a black metal band, but with a strong doom side to it. Guttural vocals, ten minute tracks and a slow dive into insanity is what you can expect from their album For Winter Fire.
US atmospheric black metal band Obolus is what we can call a mystery. Not much is known about them, and that’s fine by me. Their last record was the Lament EP in 2012, a five track journey into the abyss, supported by negative themes like hatred or desolation. Nothing more to say except check it out.
PLANNING FOR BURIAL
Do you like contemplation? I do. Very much so. Planning For Burial is the solo project of Thom Wasluck, with many many releases but only one on Flenser: Desideratum. He delivers a very slow post-rock, very contemplative as I just said, that will hit you the right way if you are in this kind of mood. It’s not easy finding that mood, but it’s worth it, as you might go from “this is a cool album” to “it’s exactly what I needed to hear right now”.
Kristina Esfandiari is a talented singer who officiates in two bands since her departure of Bay Area shoegaze’s favorite Whirr: Miserable (which I also recommend to you) and King Woman. They only have one EP (Doubt, 2014) to this date, but it’s a good one. What set this band apart is the contradiction between the doom-like, heavy guitar riffs and the peaceful steady voice of Kristina; and that’s what makes their whole personality, giving a massive, dark feeling without going all out on the doom metal. It also has a mystic feeling that kind of reminds me of some Chelsea Wolfe songs.